During a United States Department of Defense press briefing on Friday, Pentagon Press Secretary Laura K. Cooper, who is Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, International Security Affairs for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia, was asked about psychic weapons that the United States may or may not possess.
Jeff Schogol, the senior Pentagon reporter for US defense news site Task and Purpose asked:
"Foreign Policy is reporting that the Kremlin is concerned that a foreign government could launch a psychic attack on Kremlin officials. Does the US Government have any weapons or personnel who can get into the enemy's thoughts?"
Foreign Policy is an American publication that covers global affairs and current events. The article in question references Russian news outlet Insider, which posted an article in November 2022 claiming that "The FSO is preparing personnel for a 'massive ideological attack,' in which the enemy uses the media, social networks, religious organizations, hypnosis (!), psi generators (?!) and even some 'everyday items in prepared packaging.'"
Neither Cooper nor Pentagon Press Secretary Brigadier General Pat Ryder, who was running the briefing, had an answer for Schogol's question.
A long history of psychic warfare
The fear of psychic weaponry is not a new development in the tensions between Russia and the West. As far back as the 1950s, during the Cold War, Americans and USSR citizens were concerned about brainwashing. "For many experts," writes researcher Dr. Charlie Williams in his 2021 article on the subject published by the United States National Library of Medicine, "the Cold War brainwashing scare offered an opportunity to engage the public with contemporary psychological theory and research."
Williams continued: "Much in the same way that stories about artificial intelligence are reported today, discussions of techniques of brainwashing were often accompanied by speculation both wild and grounded about how new technology may be used in the future and by whom."
In an effort to explore the realm of psychic warfare, the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) along with the Army and the Defense Intelligence Agency enlisted several individuals who reportedly showed signs of psychic ability. Their skills were then tested as part of what was later dubbed the "Stargate Project" and ultimately determined to be useless for the purposes of gathering military intelligence.
Putin brings back the brainwashing scare
The Kremlin has begun revisiting the psychic warfare motif in recent months as the war in Ukraine has progressed. During a speech in September 2022 when Moscow annexed four Ukrainian regions occupied by Russian forces, Russian President Vladimir Putin cited the West as an ideological aggressor, according to Reuters.
"The dictatorship of the Western elites is directed against all societies, including the peoples of the Western countries themselves," Russia's president said. "This is a challenge to all. This is a complete denial of humanity, the overthrow of faith and traditional values. Indeed, the suppression of freedom itself has taken on the features of a religion: Outright Satanism."
He said later on in the same address: "Do we really want, here, in our country, in Russia, instead of 'mum' and 'dad', to have 'parent No. 1', 'parent No. 2', 'No. 3'? Have they gone completely insane? Do we really want... it drilled into children in our schools... that there are supposedly genders besides women and men, and [children to be] offered the chance to undergo sex change operations?
"We have a different future: Our own future."